Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Ольга Савка

U.S. explorer accuses Russia and France of looting the Titanic wreck

The deck of the ship collapsed in many places, some parts of the ship disappeared

Well-known American explorer Robert Ballard virtually accused Russia and France of plundering fragments of the legendary Titanic that sank in the Atlantic in 1912. According to the scientist, one has to take urgent measures to save the sunken ship, otherwise, Ballard believes, there will be nothing left of the legend soon, the Noviye Izvestia newspaper reports.

It was Robert Ballard, the director of the American Institute for Exploration in the town of Mystic, found the sunken Titanic in 1985 as he was exploring Atlantic depths. The scientist wants the US authorities to grant a special status to the wreckage of the ship to recognize the Titanic as a historical object liable to state protection. It is easy to understand the explorer, for the Titanic is being looted very quickly.

Robert Ballard organized an expedition to the sunken vessel in June of 2004. A deepwater probe captured considerable changes that happened with the wreckage: the deck of the ship collapsed in many places, some parts of the ship disappeared. Ballard was astonished to see that the ship's bell and the mast beacon vanished.

The American undersea explorer believes that it is very easy to find out those, who loot what is considered the most famous shipwreck of all time. It is impossible to retrieve even a teaspoon from the depth of four kilometers, at which the sunken vessel lies – one has to ask high-class professionals for help. Deepwater manned submersibles are needed to reach the Titanic on the bottom of the ocean.

There are only four such deep-diving vehicles in the world; two of them are owned by France and Japan. Russia has the best submersibles Mir-1 and Mir-2: they are a part of the equipment on board the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh vessel. In addition, only Russians and French organize excursions to the Titanic.

The unusual tour lasts for about two weeks. Preliminary physical training or perfect health is not required: the oldest of the deep-diving tourists was 78 years of age. Each deepwater dive takes the average of ten hours: five hours are needed to travel to the bottom and back, and five hours are spent to surf the wreckage. Each Mir submersible can house one pilot and two passengers. The price of the adventure is $35,000.

Dr. Ballard believes that tourists pose the greatest danger to the legendary wreckage. The explorer says that they take parts of the vessel as souvenirs and ask pilots of manned submersibles to land directly on the deck, which causes considerable damage to the sunken vessel. A US couple wedded on the Titanic in 2001. The world-known movie directed by James Cameron has also played a certain role at this point. When the movie became the global hit, souvenirs from the Titanic became real treasures for many people all over the world.

Russian scientists, however, reject Dr.Ballard's accusations of looting. “We perform scientific and tourist divings to the Titanic. Everyone can see the legendary vessel, because it sank in neutral waters. Therefore, there is nothing illegal in our actions,” Mir pilot Evgeni Chernyaev said. “However, taking souvenirs from the Titanic – it is out of the questions. The French steal and shift the blame on us,” he added.

No tourist will be able to lift anything from the deck of Titanic without pilots' help. Only a special electronic feeler can grab something at the depth of four kilometers, and only a true professional can manipulate such a feeler. That is why it is hardly possible to find another version - different from the one proposed by the American undersea explorer - to explain the looting of the Titanic.

There is a commercial aspect to the matter, though.  US company R.M.S. Titanic Inc. has been reserving all rights for the entire property of the sunken vessel since 1987. The international law, however, stipulates that a vessel, which sank in neutral waters, will belong to its finder. The US Federal Court ruled in 1987 that R.M.S. Titanic Inc. was the competent owner of the wreck. American explorers have lifted over six thousand various items since then, which were later sold at numerous auctions at exorbitant prices.

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